Call me crazy, readers, but I came this close to buying the above pattern on eBay a few days ago.
Thankfully, I came to my senses. Let the tent dress rest in peace.
Wait: you're no doubt wondering what the difference is between a tent dress and a trapeze dress. As far as I can tell, not a whole lot. I believe it was Yves Saint Laurent who brought us the trapeze dress in the late Fifties when he was at Christian Dior.
This YSL-designed trapeze dress, from 1958, is called "L'eléphant blanc" or white elephant. Perhaps wearing a dress named after a pachyderm sounded more glamorous back then than it does today.
The trapeze was more of an A-line prototype. The tent dress is, well, tent-ier. And it's the tent dress that people remember. It had quite a run, primarily in the Sixties.
Naturally, the big pattern companies jumped on the bandwagon as they always do. There were hoity-toity versions....
And middle-market versions...
When the Sixties went mod, tent dresses got groovier.
If you sometimes confuse tent dresses with muumuus, you're to be forgiven: they're similar, but muumuus generally have round yokes. (If you know more about what actually makes a muumuu a muumuu, please share.)
Having peaked by the late Sixties, the tent dress disappeared for a few decades. But like a herpes flare-up, the tent dress always comes back.
Max Mara (in 2011)!
Victoria Beckham (in 2014)!
And let's not forget the tent dress's parallel identity as maternity wear:
The major problem with tent dresses (I'll leave the minor problems for you to identify) is that they drop straight down from your most prominent point(s), potentially suggesting you're built like a soda can. But who made me a fashion arbiter? If you like it, wear it!
In closing, readers, are you a fan of tent dresses? Do you now, or did you ever, wear them?
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns. I also sew for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!